First Thing: Senate passes $739bn healthcare and climate bill

Show caption The Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, gives a thumbs-up as he leaves the Senate chamber after passage of the Inflation Reduction Act. Photograph: Drew Angerer/Getty Images First Thing First Thing: Senate passes $739bn healthcare and climate bill Inflation Reduction Act will reduce planet-heating emissions and lower prescription drug costs – and give Biden a crucial victory. Plus, meet Casper the ghostly octopus Nicola Slawson Mon 8 Aug 2022 10.51 BST Share on Facebook

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Good morning.

Senate Democrats passed their climate and healthcare spending package on Sunday, sending the legislation to the house and bringing Joe Biden one step closer to a significant legislative victory ahead of crucial midterm elections in November.

If signed into law, the bill, formally known as the Inflation Reduction Act, would allocate $369bn to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and investing in renewable energy sources. Experts have estimated the climate provisions of the bill will reduce America’s planet-heating emissions by about 40% by 2030, compared with 2005 levels.

Democrats have promised the bill will lower healthcare costs for millions of Americans by allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices and capping Medicare recipients’ out-of-pocket prescription drug prices at $2,000 a year. Those who receive health insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act marketplace are also expected to see lower premium costs.

Will Biden be able to meet his goal of halving emissions by 2030? Slashing America’s planet-heating emissions by about 40% by the end of the decade, compared with 2005 levels, would bring the US within striking distance of the goal.

China to resume military drills off Taiwan after shelving US talks

A military fighter jet flies above the Taiwan strait in China’s Fujian province on 5 August. Photograph: Ng Han Guan/AP

China’s military has announced new drills near Taiwan, including anti-submarine attack and sea raid operations, a day after its major live-fire exercises targeting the territory were supposed to end.

The defence ministry also defended its shelving of military talks with the US in protest against Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei last week, which have raised concerns about potential accidents escalating into conflict.

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) posted online that it would practise anti-submarine attacks and sea raids on Monday, following four days of unprecedented drills around the self-ruled island.

The defence ministry spokesperson Wu Qian defended the decision to suspend military channels, saying in an online post on Monday: “The current tense situation in the Taiwan strait is entirely provoked and created by the US side on its own initiative, and the US side must bear full responsibility and serious consequences for this.

“The bottom line cannot be broken, and communication requires sincerity,” Wu said.

Why is China so angry? Pelosi’s visit last week infuriated China, which regards Taiwan as its own and responded with test launches of ballistic missiles over Taipei for the first time, as well as ditching some lines of dialogue with Washington.

What has the US said about China’s actions? Pentagon, state department and White House officials condemned the move, describing it as an irresponsible overreaction.

Has the love affair between Trump and Fox News gone sour?

Donald Trump with Fox News’s Tucker Carlson and the congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene at the LIV Golf event at his Bedminster golf club last weekend. Photograph: Justin Lane/EPA

For years, Donald Trump and Fox News were smitten.

The former president would call into the rightwing news channel seemingly whenever he liked. Fox News hosts pumped up every Trump utterance. Trump watched the channel religiously, and in 2019 alone he sent 657 tweets in response to Fox News or Fox Business programs.

Since then, however, things appear to have changed. Trump, as the New York Times has pointed out, has not been interviewed on Fox News for more than 100 days.

A recent Trump speech was largely ignored by the network, and in a sign that Fox News has recognized alternative Republican presidential candidates are available, a Mike Pence address was broadcast live, in its entirety.

With the news channel embroiled in a billion-dollar lawsuit with Dominion Voting Systems over its claims the voting machine company tampered with the 2020 election, Trump’s continuing lies about election fraud seem to have rattled Rupert Murdoch, the media titan who owns Fox News.

What has Murdoch said about Trump recently? Nothing publicly yet but this week the Washington Post reported that Murdoch had “lost his enthusiasm” for Trump.

In other news …

Caroline Kennedy speaking at a commemorative service to mark the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Guadalcanal in Honiara on Solomon Islands. Photograph: Dion Isaacson/AUSTRALIA’S DEPARTMENT OF FOREIG/AFP/Getty Images

A visit to Solomon Islands by senior US diplomats included a touching personal moment, as Caroline Kennedy, the new US ambassador to Australia, met the children of two men who saved the life of her father, John F Kennedy, during the second world war.

The actor Anne Heche was “stable” in hospital amid a wave of support from fans and fellow stars after an accident in which she drove her car into a Los Angeles home , causing severe burn injuries to herself as well as damaging the house, which has become “uninhabitable”.

Three Muslim men have been killed in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in a span of just 10 days, stoking fear in one of America’s smallest Muslim communities as police have warned the deaths may be linked . Officials have said there is a “strong possibility” the victims were targeted because of their race and religion.

A truce between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad has taken effect in the Gaza Strip after three days of cross-border fighting triggered by surprise Israeli airstrikes. The US president, Joe Biden, welcomed the agreement yesterday, and called on all parties to “fully implement the ceasefire”.

Don’t miss this: Japan laments lack of progress on same-sex marriage

Participants march in the Tokyo Rainbow Pride parade in April. Photograph: Yuichi Yamazaki/Getty Images

In June, the Japanese capital became the latest city to recognise same-sex partnerships, and recent upper house elections featured a record four candidates from the LGBT community. Yet Japan’s official resistance to same-sex unions is as fierce as ever. It is the only country in the G7 that denies LGBT couples the right to marry. Advocates hope an upcoming ruling in Tokyo district court will help spur progress on an issue that already has public backing.

Climate check: ‘There are no safe levels of pollution’

Smoke from a wildfire burning in the town of Lind in Washington state. Photograph: AP

As the climate crisis brings drought and dried-out landscapes, wildfires in the US west are spreading smoky air to millions of people, even those who live far from where the fires burn. The problem is becoming so pronounced that some television weather forecasters in California now include “smoke casts” in their reports. Scientists warn that current health policies are not effectively protecting people against smoke inhalation dangers. Wildfire smoke in recent years accounted for up to 50% of all dangerous, small-particle air pollution in the western US, research shows, and the problem is growing.

Last Thing: Meet Casper the ghostly octopus

Scientists are puzzled by Casper’s pallor and short arms. Photograph: AP

A white octopus sat on the seabed, gently waggling its short, stubby arms and peering with beady eyes into the camera of a deep-diving robot. It was 2016, in waters off Hawaii, at a depth of 4,290 metres (2.6 miles). No one had ever seen an octopus like it, and certainly not so deep. Based on its ghostly appearance, it was nicknamed Casper. That first glimpse of Casper threw up many tantalising mysteries. Why is it so pale? Another puzzle is the short arms. Scientists are slowly learning the cephalopod’s secrets.

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